"Eighty-Six" (エイティシックス, Eiti-shikkusu?) is the first volume of the 86 -Eighty Six- light novel series written by Asato Asato and illustrated by Shirabii featuring mechanical designs by I-IV. The volume covers the first story arc of the series, depicting the struggles of two soldiers—Vladilena Milizé and Shinei Nouzen—as they fight the same war together, but chase towards goals of their own, all the while never seeing each other's faces.
"Countless souls were claimed.
But no deaths were recorded."
"No country would ever consider it an act of evil to deny a pig human rights. Therefore, if you were to define someone speaking a different tongue, someone of a different color, someone of a different heritage as a pig in human form, any oppression, persecution, or atrocity you might inflict upon them would never be regarded as cruel or inhumane." ― Vladilena Milizé, Memoirs
A War Without Casualties
The Republic of San Magnolia has long been under attack from the neighboring Giadian Empire's army of unmanned drones known as the Legion. After years of painstaking research, the Republic finally developed autonomous drones of their own, turning the one-sided struggle into a war without casualties-or at least, that's what the government claims.
In truth, there is no such thing as a bloodless war. Beyond the fortified walls protecting the eighty-five Republic territories lies the "nonexistent" Eighty-Sixth Sector. The young men and women of this forsaken land are branded the Eighty-Six and, stripped of their humanity, pilot the "unmanned" weapons into battle...
- Coquelicots Blooming Across the Battlefield
- Chapter 1: A Battlefield with Zero Casualties
- Chapter 2: All Quiet on the Skeletal Front
- Chapter 3: To Your Gallant Visage at the Underworld's Edge
- Interlude: The Headless Knight
- Chapter 4: I Am Legion, for We Are Many
第四章 我が名は 〈亡霊の軍勢〉、数多なれば
- Interlude: The Headless Knight II
間章 首のない騎士 II
- Chapter 5: Fuckin' Glory to the Spearhead Squadron
- Interlude: The Headless Knight III
間章 首のない騎士 III
- Chapter 6: Fiat Justitia Ruat Caelum
第六章 せめて人間たらんと[† 1]
- Interlude: The Headless Knight IV
間章 首のない騎士 IV
- Chapter 7: Good-bye
第七章 さよなら[† 2]
- Epilogue: The Bloodstained Queen's Sojourn
- Epilogue II: Reboot
16-years-old Vladilena "Lena" Milize is a Major serving in the military of the Republic of San Magnolia, a country that prides itself as the first modern democracy in the world, and has been locked in a war against the remnants of the destroyed Giadian Empire for the past 9 years. However, by this point in the war, the ideals of equality the Republic upheld were mere empty words. The country is led by a racial supremacist government who stripped the rights of the colored citizens (Colorata) and condemned them outside the fortifications of the country, a region known as the Eighty-Sixth Sector and its inhabitants, considered as sub-humans, are referred to as the Eighty-Six. The young men and women of the Eighty-Six are forced by the Republic government to fight their war against the Empire's advanced autonomous drone army, the Legion, by piloting makeshift "drones" known as Juggernauts in order to liberate their families from the Eighty-Sixth Sector and restore their citizenship.
Witnessing this atrocity personally when she was younger, Lena could not let this injustice be ignored any longer, and with her fervid sense of justice she tried her hardest to help the Eighty-Six in the war before it was expected to end in the next two years due to the lifespan of the Legion's central processors. To her surprise, she was assigned as the Handler of an elite squadron of name-bearing Eighty-Six known as the Spearhead Squadron, led by the ominous Undertaker that drove his Handlers insane. She is repeatedly encouraged not to take the job by her closest friend, Henrietta von Penrose. Annette suggested that Lena instead transfer to the research division to work alongside her, as "former military personnel" would not be a good occupation to put on her resume once the war was over. Lena remained steadfast in her ideals and took the position of Spearhead's handler.
After exchanging words with Undertaker over the Para-RAID, she concluded he wasn't as dangerous as the rumors say and her suspicion of him faded away. By then, she was comfortable enough to routinely converse with the squadron's members every night. In spite of her efforts to close the gap between her and her squadron's Processors, the clear line of the oppressor and the oppressed still remained and earned her more than a few cold comments on her good-natured yet naïve behavior from the squadron's members. Despite that, Lena hadn't given up and continued to lend an honest helping hand to the squadron's battles against the Legion. This cold and distant relationship between her and the squadron would last until she was unable to prevent the death of Kirschblüte, one of the most active members when it came to their nightly talks. A hurtful rebuke from Laughing Fox finally made her realize her own self-centered, hypocritical manner of treating the Eighty-Six, to the point she had never even asked for their real names.
She nervously reconnected with Undertaker later that night, apologizing for her behavior and requesting for the names of the squadron's members. Sensing that Lena was eager to prove herself once more to the squadron, he gave her a chance and introduced his comrades' names to Lena one by one, also telling her about his promise to carry the tags of his fallen comrades. With his help, she would manage to repair their relationship and set a true foundation for their interactions moving forward. Undertaker would eventually introduce himself as Shinei Nouzen, to which Lena would ask if he was related to a Processor by the Personal Name of Dullahan—Shourei Nouzen—who saved her when she was taken to the Eighty-Sixth Sector by her father six years ago. He confirmed that Shourei was his brother and told her of his death five years ago. He admits to Lena that he does not have any plans once he was discharged, only that his current goal was to search for his brother. Lena was confused by what he had meant, but Shin simply deflected, not telling her what he truly meant.
While overseeing another sortie, Shin abruptly directed her to cut resonance mid-battle. Not comprehending the meaning behind the message, Lena protested his suggestion, only to end up having a panic attack due to the horrifying macabre noises coming from the Legion. In the evening, to Shin's surprise, Lena gathered the strength to resonate with Shin once again. She discovered the truth about the sounds—the Legion were taking hold of the dead Processors' brains to augment their lifespans and thus retaining the ego the Processors had moments before their deaths. The Legion that had assimilated the damaged brains of the dead were referred to as Black Sheep, and those with undamaged brains were referred to as Shepherds. To Lena's shock, this information means the war is not ending anytime soon, contrary to what she and the Republic undoubtedly believed.
Shin had gained the ability to hear the voices of the dead—and by extension, the Legion—after a near death experience involving his brother six years ago. His brother had snapped under the pressure of losing their mother and being forced to enlist. Shourei took his rage out on Shin and chocked him to death before he was stopped by a priest acting as their caretaker. The priest managed to resuscitate Shin, but the chocking had left a scar or his neck. Shourei soon left for the frontlines, unable to apologize for his actions, causing Shin to believe he was still angry. After this experience, Shin could hear the mechanical wails of the Legion; over time the mechanical voices were replaced with human voices, until one day, he heard Shourei's voice among them. Shourei had become a Shepherd.
The Spearhead Squadron's battle frequency over the months increased exponentially; gradually, exhaustion had caught up to the Processors. The number of casualties in action were increasing, slowly chipping away at the strength of the squadron. No matter how passionately Lena pleads to the military officers, reinforcements were never sent, which increased her frustration in the battles to come. To Lena's boredom, the Revolution Festival came and had to attend as part of former aristocracy, however she reclused herself from the gathering to talk to Shin over the Para-RAID. Talking about how the landscape of nighttime fireworks contrasted over the First Sector and the Eighty-Sixth Sector, they made a promise to someday watch the fireworks in the capital together.
An unprecedented bombardment from an unknown Legion during a battle caused four more deaths, leaving less than half of the number a squadron required to operate efficiently. Lena was frustrated, as the squadron had been decimated past a proper fighting strength and further battle would only be suicide. However, on the other side of the resonance, the squadron's morale remains collected. Shin calmly revealed to Lena the reason that no reinforcements were ever sent to their squadron. Since they had lived long past the period of mortality expectancy for a Processor, the Republic designated this frontier as their dying ground and would make sure none of them would survive. The assurance to reinstate their rights if the Eighty-Six fight the war, was again nothing but an empty promise by the Republic. Lena was shocked beyond words.
True to Shin's words, her superior officers gave the order that would undoubtedly exterminate the remaining members—the Special Reconnaissance Mission, which declared that Spearhead was to be sent deep into Legion territory with a month's worth of food, ammunition, and fuel, with no support and immediate execution should they retreat. Lena tried her hardest to get her direct superior and uncle—Jérôme Karlstahl—to rescind the order, to no avail. Karlstahl vehemently disagreed with her innocent ideals of equality and justice, saying that the Republic was a country of incorrigible villains. With nothing else she could do, she turned to her friend Annette, whom similarly rebuffed her request for help. Annette told Lena that she was previously friends with a Colorata boy whom she betrayed once the persecution began due to bullying by her peers. She had felt guilt and powerlessness ever since, simply giving up on trying to help the Eighty-Six. After this incident, Annette told Lena that she did not want to see her again.
Lena resonated with Shin that night in their usual routine. She pleaded for him and the rest of the squadron to run away, to which Shin stated it would be pointless. No matter where they went—towards the Republic's minefields and cannons or towards the hordes of the Legion—it was certain demise. She then requested they at least stop fighting, Shin determinedly rejected her pleas again. Due to this, Lena finally made the connection regarding why Shin fought so obsessively on the battlefield. Thinking back to what he said about "finding his brother", she deduced that he had been assimilated. Shin regretted that Lena had to find out after he had tried to hide it from her. He requested that Lena survive long enough for a neighboring nation to hopefully rescue the Republic, then cut off their resonance. Their nightly conversations ended there.
Lena deduced that the Colorata boy Annette was friends with was none other than Shin, due to him previously living in the same sector and having a significantly older brother, which Annette mentioned in her story. Lena couldn't confirm its validity, but she desperately hoped it was the case and contacted Annette once more. She managed to guilt trip Annette into helping her hack the systems controlling the Republic's interception cannons, which she planned to use to help Spearhead in their final mission.
The day finally arrived for Spearhead to depart on their Special Reconnaissance Mission. Six members—Shin, Raiden, Theo, Anju, Kurena, as well as Fido—set off eastward into Legion territory, as per their mission directive. Having known for a while this day would come, both Shin and Shourei were ready to face each other. Spearhead engaged the massive force of Legion gathered in the Eastern Front, with a Dinosauria—Shourei—at their helm. At first, Shin gave the order for everyone to advance ahead of him as he took on his brother alone. Raiden and the rest objected to their leader's order, instead choosing to support him by eliminating the other Legion surrounding Shourei.
Just as all hope faded away from the minds of Spearhead, the skies filled with Eintagsfliege were lit ablaze, and the hordes of the Legion were suddenly and significantly culled by rounds coming from the sky. Lena's artillery had arrived. At first, Spearhead was confused. Raiden himself was shocked; knowing of the protocols and regulations—using the interception cannons and setting the Para-RAID to sync vision—she broke, he asked why she would even risk reprimand and blindness to help them. Lena simply responded that her actions were for the survival of the Republic, and that she didn't mind the consequences that would befall upon her.
On the other side of the battlefield, Shin left his squadron to their own devices as he fought his brother mano-a-mano, blocking out all other distractions. Through their dance of death, the two brothers would have their final conversation. Shin would eventually make a mistake and lose consciousness. Rei approached Undertaker, intending to assimilate his brother into the Legion. His squadmates rushed to him, attempting to bind the Dinosauria with their anchor wires, but the Juggernauts were simply too light, unable to stop the unit completely. The efforts of the squadron would not be in vain, however. Just as Rei's micromachine hands prepared to tear off Undertaker's canopy, Lena would fire her artillery in his direction. As Rei did not intend to have Shin simply die, he used his micromachine arms in order to protect him, not knowing that the shells she fired were duds.
- Main Characters
- Supporting Characters
- The literal translation of せめて人間たらんと (Semete Ningentaranto) is "At least be a human being". Fiat justitia ruat caelum is a Latin legal phrase, meaning "Let justice be done though the heavens fall." The maxim signifies the belief that justice must be realized regardless of consequences.
- A furigana in English runs along the Japanese as
さよなら. Shalom Chaverim is Hebrew that literally translates to "Peace, friends", and is the name of an Israeli folk song that can be sung as a simple melody or as a three-part round.
- While the illustrations of later volumes depict the red flowers mentioned as the red spider lily or higanbana, a flower that is closely associated with death and martyrdom in Japan, the novel's descriptions are of the corn poppy. The corn poppy became a popular symbol of the dead during World War 1 after publishing the poem "In Flanders Fields" by Canadian soldier John McCrae. In the prologue "Coquelicots Blooming Across the Battlefield," Asato also references a Chinese legend associated with corn poppy about the death of the Consort Yu, who committed suicide when she and her liege were besieged at the Battle of Gaixia. The legend states that poppies grew where the Consort fell, and the corn poppy became a symbol of loyalty until death.
- The order that declares the Colorata as enemies of the Republic and confines them to the concentration camps is Presidential Order #6609, the numbers of which are reversed from the real Executive Order 9066 that labeled Japanese-Americans as enemy aliens and allowed them to be confined in numerous camps on the West Coast of the United States during World War 2.
- The name Shin gives to the cat is Remarque, the name of the author of the book he is currently reading. Erich Maria Remarque was a veteran of World War 1 and is widely known as the author of the World War 1 historical fiction novel All Quiet on the Western Front, a novel that details the horrors of war of a disillusioned recruit of the Imperial German Army. Chapter 1's title, "All Quiet on the Skeletal Front," is a direct reference to Remarque's novel.
- In chapter 2, Raiden muses over the line "Man shall not live on bread alone," which is spoken by Jesus Christ in Matthew 4:4. The full line is, "Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God."
- Also in Chapter 2, Shin recites a famous line from the New Testament, "Dicit ei Legio nomen mihi est quia multi sumus," which translates to "I am Legion, for we are many." A fitting line for introducing the Legion and foreshadowing for some similar qualities between the robotic "Black Sheep" Legion and the Biblical demons that call themselves Legion. The line returns as the title of Chapter 4.
- Asato Asato has stated in interviews that one of her inspirations for the novel was news coverage of drone strikes in the Middle East during the Obama administration. The Handler position can be compared to that of a drone operator.
- 86--EIGHTY-SIX, Vol. 1 (light novel) Yen Press. Retrieved on 2021-04-15.
- Papaver rhoeas - Wikipedia. Retrieved on 2021-04-15.
- Executive Order 9066 - Wikipedia. Retrieved on 2021-04-15.
- Legion (demons) - Wikipedia. Retrieved on 2021-04-15.
- かすっち （ルビ：ｋａｓｔｅｌｐｌｓ）🥐🌕🔎 on Twitter: "86 -eightysix- interview with asato asato is really interesting for one, the writer is a woman who grew up in a family who like mecha anime" / Twitter (2017-12-06).